Alhagie Jobe, SMBC NEWS - Senegal President Macky Sall on Saturday invited the country’s opposition, National Assembly members, civil society organizations, trade unions and religious leaders for a national dialogue.

The first of its kind since he came to power in 2012, the national dialogue convened at the Presidential palace accorded the opposition the opportunity to launch frontal attacks on the president and strongly criticize some of the government policies they deem unfit and inappropriate for democracy and the rule of law in Senegal.

The Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), the leading opposition party headed by former President Abdoulaye Wade, was represented at the ceremony, despite the imprisonment of most of its senior members and presidential candidate Karim Wade over corruption.

Other political parties like Rewmi Party of former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck and Bokko Gissgiss party of Pape Diop, former President of the National Assembly and Senate, refused to take part in the national dialogue.

President Sall said he called for the national dialogue to discuss with all the country’s players, issues concerning the nation and of national interest.

He said despite their political differences, they share the same country, Senegal, saying the contest for power is not incompatible with dialogue.

President Sall highlighted several key points that he and his government wished to discuss with all parties to ensure national concession. Among them is the issue of the oil and gas discovered in Senegal and the way to exploit it to the benefit of the masses and not for few as seen in most countries. He also noted the importance of security in any nation with oil and gas urging all to avoid a replica of what happens in Nigeria.

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Foreign Affairs

Oil and gas discovery

Over the years, Senegal’s energy sector has got huge boost after oil and gas findings off the coast of the country. The country is among the few countries in West Africa that enjoys relative political and economic stability, while neighboring countries are faced with wars and Islamist violence.

U.S. energy firm, Kosmos Energy confirmed in January 2015 that its Guembeul-1 exploration well discovered the largest gas field in West Africa, off the coast of Senegal and Mauritania.

After drilling to a total depth of more than 5000 meters, the well found “101 meters of net gas pay in two excellent quality reservoirs”, which looks to be a “single, large gas accumulation”. On March 2015 after further drilling, Kosmos Energy announced a fourth significant offshore gas finding in the same area.

“The issue of national security is also a concern and we need to join efforts in ensuring continued peace and stability” President Sall said, noting the crisis in the country’s southern region of Cassamance which has been unsolved for the past three decades without any solution.

Opposition concerns

Representatives of all religious leaders and brotherhoods in the country, civil society organizations, trade unions and others, all had the opportunity to speak and expressed delight at the president’s move and initiative. They described it as timely saying such national dialogue is vital in any democratic government.

The members of the opposition parties in particular expressed their views on the social and political situation of the country.

They denounced the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of most opposition members over the past years especially members of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), and called on President Sall to pardon ex-president Abdoulaye Wade’s son, Karim Wade who is in prison over corruption.

The national dialogue was held in an atmosphere of seriousness tinted with jokes. President Sall and his government took note of all concerns raised during the opening of the national dialogue. The duration of national dialogue is not yet specified but leaders are currently meeting indoors for final concessions on various issues of national interest.

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